Yesterday, President Trump said our nation has been besieged by crime. Meeting with a group of our nation's sheriffs,Trump told them, “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” He blamed the news media for not publicizing this development, then added, “But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years.”
This is, of course, not true. How do I know this? Well, gun rights activists on the inter webs remind me of this fact all the time. Here are the facts.
The murder rate is defined as the number of murders and non-negligent homicides per 100,000 residents. Beginning in 1957, when the rate was 4.0 murders per 100,000 residents, the rate rose steadily to a high of 10.2 in 1980. It then steadily dropped, to 7.4 in 1996, to 6.1 in 2006, to 4.4 in 2014. It went up in 2015 to 4.9. But that is less than half the murder rate of 1980. The raw number of homicides in America has actually declined from 19,645 in 1996 to 15,696 in 2015, even while the population has risen from 265 million in 1996 to 321 million in 2015.
The violent crime rate in America also has plummeted over the years. Defined as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, violent crimes peaked at a rate of 758 per 100,000 residents in 1991, and the rate was about 373 violent crimes per 100,000 in 2015, again a decline of more than half.
The statistics for 2016 are not yet available. Here is the FBI’s violent crime table for the years 1996 to 2015.
Today, Trump doubled down on these claims in what has become yet another example of this administration's cognitive dissonance. Like the right wing bloggers and commenters that religiously follow him, they create their own reality in which their anger, hate and fear are more justified.
Alternative facts indeed.